Winter Roofing – Winter Roof Replacement or Wait Until Spring

Roof leaks don’t just stop because it gets cold outside. While there are many roofing companies that go on hiatus during the coldest months of the year, winter is one of the most likely times for a leak to occur. If you discover a leak, have major damage to your roof, or are nearing the deadline to file a claim for previous damage, it’s not always realistic to wait until spring to replace your roof. While there are certainly challenges to replacing a roof in the winter, it can be installed safely and effectively as long as the proper precautions are taken by an experienced roofer. If you have questions about replacing your roof this winter, let’s explore the various challenges and how our roofing team overcomes them, to give you the confidence you need to upgrade your roof.  

*NOTE – Many of the challenges of a winter roof installation are in regards to asphalt shingle roofing. If you are upgrading your roof or replacing a material other than shingles, contact us for additional information.

Roofs covered in snow with a winter rocky mountain backdrop

Will It Seal?

Whenever you install a new roofing material, it’s critical to apply an active seal that keeps water from getting underneath, and your roof from simply blowing away or peeling back the next time a strong wind passes through. Asphalt shingles have a strip of pre-applied sealant that interacts with warmer temperatures, sealing the shingle to the underlayment when the temperature reaches between 40-85 degrees Fahrenheit. During the deep winter months, some locations can go long stretches of time without the temperature ever rising above 40 degrees. However, there are other methods used to temporarily seal shingles to the underlayment throughout the winter, until enough sunshine and natural heat is available to activate the sealant strip. It’s also important to keep in mind that even though the outside temperature may not reach 40 degrees, your roof’s exposure to heat escaping your attic and direct exposure to the sun can raise your roof’s surface temperature significantly.  

If the temperature is not high enough to seal using natural heat, roofing contractors must hand-seal each shingle to the underlayment by applying additional nails and roofing cement or a manufacturer approved adhesive to each shingle, which prevents both shingle loss and curling. While this technique takes additional time, it guarantees that each shingle is properly sealed, resulting in an effective adhesion that will keep your roof secure. Typically, shingle manufacturers have installation instructions for temperatures below the natural sealing temperature, so if you have any questions, make sure to check the manufacturers guidelines, or speak to your roofing contractor to ensure they are familiar with the manufacturers suggested practices.  

Overcoming Winter Weather Woes

Along with hand-sealing, winter roofing does add a few additional tasks and challenges to the process of a roof installation. Here’s a few of the challenges we typically encounter, and how we overcome them to provide an exceptional roof replacement experience that ensures your roof protects your home just as effectively as if it was installed in spring, summer, or fall.

Snow & ice removal – Before work can begin on your roof, snow and ice must be removed to expose the shingles and protect the roof sheathing from water damage. As well as removing ice and snow, we perform a thorough inspection to check for any potential damage caused by excessive load from the additional weight. If you are in need of a repair instead of a full replacement, extra precautions are taken to ensure shingles are not damaged or removed along with the layers of ice.   

Shorter working days – In the depths of winter, less hours of natural sunlight also means less hours to work effectively outdoors. As a result, a roof that could be completed in one day during the summer, may take additional days to complete in the winter. The most important thing is making sure it’s done right even if it takes additional days. We dedicate as many man-hours as it takes to ensure no corners are cut, and our crews remain safe throughout the installation.

Extreme Cold – Shorter days aren’t the only reason that winter roofing jobs take longer than their warmer counterparts. Roofing is a physical job, and when you’re bundled up in heavy duty gear to protect from the cold, it naturally takes longer to do the same job. When temperatures fall far below freezing, it’s necessary to take breaks in a heated area, or implement rotating shifts to prevent hypothermia or frostbite.

Slippery surfaces – Ice and snow can make the roof surface, especially underlayment like ice and water shield, very slippery which has caused many a roofer to lose their footing. By following OSHA guidelines and utilizing safety measures such as harnesses, temporary rails, elevated walkways, and most importantly rescheduling if the current conditions are deemed to be unsafe, we’ve been able to keep our crews safe and maintain an impeccable safety record throughout every season.  

Brittle Shingles – When shingles are stored in freezing conditions, they can become brittle which results in cracked shingles and nails being over or under driven. To prevent cracking or curling, we store shingles on a flat surface, in a warm, dry area until they are ready to be installed. To prevent nails from being over or under driven, our installers pay close attention, and adjust the pressure of the pneumatic guns to ensure proper application. In certain circumstances, nails may even need to be manually driven.  

The roof eave of a wintry home

Winter Installation or Wait Until Spring?

If you are a homeowner with a bad roof, the presence of ice and snow makes the likelihood of experiencing leaks during the winter months relatively high when compared to warmer months. This is because when snow and ice accumulate, the bottom layer, which is nearest to the escaping heat from your attic, melts first. This melted ice and snow is present for longer and takes a slower path before draining off your roof, which creates a higher probability of finding and seeping into exposed areas and causing leaks, as opposed to a steady downfall of rain which drains much faster.

Prolonged exposure to leaks by waiting for warmer weather to arrive, can result in extensive damage to your roof sheathing, roof structure, interior drywall, etc. which can end up costing you thousands of dollars more in repairs.  There are any number of issues that can arise during the winter months that require immediate repair or replacement. If you find yourself in that situation it’s always better to complete the work ASAP to prevent additional damage.

Winter Roofing Benefits – Pricing, Responsiveness, & WEATHER?  

Despite the challenges of roof installation in the winter, there are actually benefits that homeowners can take advantage of by scheduling a winter roof replacement. If you are paying out of pocket for your roof replacement, sometimes you may see lower prices in the winter due the reduced volume many roofing contractors experience once the cold weather hits. However, keep in mind that reduced pricing can also serve as a red flag. Along with the fact that top roofing contractors often maintain a steady influx of business year-round, the truth is with all the additional factors of installing a roof during the winter, it takes more time and effort which can also result in slightly higher prices. The last thing you want is a roofing contractor cutting corners when additional precautions need to be taken, so if you are comparing prices, make sure the roofing contractor you hire has a plan in place to deal with the winter weather woes we discussed above.  

Additionally, less demand can also mean more responsiveness and faster turnaround time. So even though the installation itself can take longer, roofing contractors that are often slammed in peak season, are likely to get you on their schedule faster in the winter.

You may be asking how can winter weather possibly be a benefit? It depends on the location, but in some places, weather during the warmer seasons can be unpredictable, with unexpected storms and high winds causing massive delays to multiple projects. Each season has its particular challenges, and while winter is no exception, mild winter conditions can sometimes be more favorable to roofing contractors than other seasons.

Conclusion

Installing a roof in the winter has its challenges, but if installed correctly, it can provide just as much protection as installed in any other season. The most important aspect of installing a roof in winter is working with an experienced roofing contractor who will follow the manufacturers guidelines, and implement all the necessary safety measures to ensure your roof is installed properly.


If you have any questions or concerns about your roof as winter swiftly approaches, contact us to learn more about our roofing services, and follow our blog for more helpful roofing tips and tricks!

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